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October 3, 2021
The Pharisees approached Jesus and asked, "Is it lawful for a husband to divorce his wife?" They were testing him. He said to them in reply, "What did Moses command you?" They replied, "Moses permitted a husband to write a bill of divorce and dismiss her." But Jesus told them, "Because of the hardness of your hearts he wrote you this commandment. But from the beginning of creation, God made them male and female. For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. So they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, no human being must separate." In the house the disciples again questioned Jesus about this. He said to them, "Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her; and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery."
And people were bringing children to him that he might touch them, but the disciples rebuked them. When Jesus saw this he became indignant and said to them, "Let the children come to me; do not prevent them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Amen, I say to you, whoever does not accept the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it." Then he embraced them and blessed them, placing his hands on them.
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Two Shall Become One
For this reason, a man shall leave his father and mother, and be joined to his wife. And the two shall become one. So, they are no longer two but one. What does that mean? It reminds me of Carlton and Maggie. They met almost 100 years ago in a little town in the Ozarks. Carlton’s family was a farming family, sharecroppers, farming somebody else's land. They were dirt, even desperately poor. And Carlton still remembers the day when he was nine years old, and he first saw Maggie, for the very first time. His dad came in and woke up the kids, and said, "Put on your good clothes we're going into town, we're going to the funeral today." Carlton still remembers going and arriving near the church, and standing in front of the church was little seven-year-old Maggie, and her sister, and their mom. And Carlton realized that Maggie's dad had passed away. That day, in his mind, Carlton made a note and he said, "Growing up without a dad is going to be tough on Maggie, and so, I'm going to check on her as we get older." And so pretty soon they were part of the same pack of kids, that hung out together, and played together, and walked to school together. And as they got a little bit older, Carlton began to notice Maggie and began to take an interest in her, as in Georgia we would say, "He took a shining to her." But Carlton had to drop out of school after the eighth grade. His dad said, "Son, we can't afford for you not to be working here on the farm. I need all the sets of hands I can get. You got to give up school." And Carlton told Maggie, "I'm going to stay in touch with you. I want us to continue to be friends." And yes, as they got a little bit older, they began to date, they began to court. And pretty soon Carlton realized that Maggie was the one for him, but he didn't want a sharecropper's life. And he said, "Maggie, I'm going to move across the river to Granite City, Illinois, and I'm going to go over there and I'm going to get a job in the steel mill. And I'm going to save up money until I can give us a nest egg so we can start a life together. And then, I want to come back and I want us to get married." And Maggie said, "That'd be great."
So, she continued to finish school and Carlton worked in that steel mill starting as a shoveler of coal, and he slowly worked his way up until he had enough money. And he came back, and he and Maggie went, and they met with Father Davis, and Father Davis presided at their wedding. And he said, "Now, Carlton, when we get to the end of the wedding mass, I'm going to say a blessing. I'm going to pronounce a blessing over you and Maggie. And when I do that, I want you to take hold of her hand, and I want you to squeeze it. And I want you to never let go." Carlton did that, when they came to the end, and Father Davis was pronouncing that blessing. Carlton took Maggie's hand and he squeezed it, and he said, "Lord, I love her so much. We've been waiting for this moment for so many years, I promise you I'll never let go, Lord help us." And so, they moved pretty quickly over back to Granite City and set up their home. And Carlton went back to work. And before you know it, Maggie became pregnant. And she was about seven and a half, eight months along, and one day they were having breakfast. And as she got up from the table, she collapsed in pain, and fell over, doubled over onto the floor. And Carlton was a big strong guy. And so, he scooped her up, and he rushed her to the hospital. And they took her back into the emergency room. And, for the next three or four hours, Carlton paced back and forth in that emergency room. He held his rosary, and he prayed to God. And he said, "God, I love Maggie so much. She's, my wife. She's, my lover. She's, my friend. She's my, soul mate. Please don't take her. Please don't let her die." He paced frantically back and forth, back and forth until the doctors came out and they said, "Carlton, the news is mostly good." Carlton said, "Well, share with me." And he said, "Your wife, Maggie, she's going to be okay, but it's been hard." He said, "Good. How's my baby?" And they said, "Well, you have a baby son." And, Carlton said, "Great. Is he okay?" And he said, "Yeah, he's okay, but he was born breech. And in being born breech, there was a lot of damage done inside of Maggie's body. And so, this is the only child, that the two of you are going to be able to have together biologically." And Carlton said, "My wife's okay, my son's okay. Praise be to God."
And so, a few weeks passed and they were able to take little Eddie, their son, home, and they raised him like most American families do. They took him to church, and he took him to First Communion. He made his Confirmation, and he played baseball, and he played trumpet in the band. And when he graduated from high school, he enlisted in the Air Force. He was stationed a couple of different places before he finally landed in Northern California. And he met a young woman there, and they got married. And a few years later, they had a daughter, and they had another daughter. Meanwhile, back in Illinois, Carlton retired from the steel mill. And he and Maggie were talking one day and he said, "Why do we live here when our grandkids are out there?" And so, they sold their house, and they packed up their stuff, and they moved out to Northern California to be near those grandkids, and to watch those two granddaughters also make their First Communion, and make their Confirmation. And go to the ballet and graduate from high school. And the years passed. And slowly but surely, Maggie's body and her health began to deteriorate. She had cataracts and she had to have surgery. And Carlton was there to care for her. And then she developed breast cancer, and she had to have a mastectomy. And then the chemo, and the radiation. And her body was severely weakened by that. And Carlton was there - all the way through that - to nurture and to care for her. And to be with her. And to nourish her. And then she developed osteoporosis, and her body became very frail. And her bones became very brittle, and she had a tough fall, and her body became extremely weak, and her mobility became very, very minimal. And one day as she was getting up from the dinner table again, this time after dinner. She collapsed in pain on the floor and was writhing in pain. And Carlton's not a young, strong buck anymore, and so he had to call the medics and they came and, they picked up Maggie, and they took her to the hospital. And again, all these decades later, she's back in the emergency room, and Carlton's out in the waiting room, pacing back and forth with his rosary in his hand, saying, "Lord, I love Maggie so much. Please don't take her. She's my best friend. I love her. Please don't let her die."
A few hours later, the doctors came out and they said, Carlton, the news is not great. Maggie's got a perforated ulcer and her body's so weak; she's not going to be able to manage this well. And so, you're going to need to take her and put her into a care facility. Because you just don't have the physical strength, and you don't have the medical expertise to care for her the way that she's going to need. And you're in your 80s now." And Carlton said, "If this is what's in the best interest of my Maggie, then that's what we'll do." So, they put her in the care facility, there near the hospital. And every day Carlton would get up, and he would drive over to the care facility, and feed Maggie breakfast, and he'd feed her lunch. He'd and feed her dinner. And the first thing that he had done, was he got home and gotten the rocking chair that they'd had all the way back in Illinois. And he put it right beside her bed so that he could sit there every day between meals, and just be with his Maggie. And she could hear that familiar creaking, that rocking back and forth, back and forth to be reassured - even when she was asleep - that Carlton was there with her. He fed her every day, every meal, breakfast, lunch, and dinner, three times a day, seven days a week for three years. Till one day, he came into her room there at the care facility. The doctors and the nurses were gathered and Carlton realized that something was not right. And they said, "Yeah, Maggie's contracted pneumonia, Carlton, and we need to prepare you that, we're going to do everything we can, but we're probably approaching the end. And so, we just want you to be aware of that, that things are changing. And her body is not going to be able to overcome this pneumonia unless something miraculous happens."
At first, Carlton was in denial, and he was just in shock, and so he sat beside her, he couldn't believe that news. He couldn't absorb the truth that the doctors were telling him. So, he sat frantically beside her bed, and he held her hand. And he said, "Maggie, it's me. It's Carlton. I love you. Please don't go. Please don't go." But after a day or two, the truth began to settle in, and Carlton began to think clearly again. And he realized that they were indeed drawing near to the end. And so, he began to sit next to her each day, hold her hand, and rub it gently and say, "Maggie it's Carlton. I love you. It's going to be okay. It's going to be okay." Sunday came, and Eddie and his wife, and the two granddaughters who were in town because they knew that their grandmother was about to die, came by and they picked up Carlton, and they took him to mass. And when mass was over, the priest came with the family, and they anointed Maggie. And they stood together and prayed together. And then they read the words of the 23rd Psalm.
And then the priest left, and an hour or two later, Eddie and his wife and the granddaughters left. And it was just Carlton there in the rocking chair sitting next to Maggie on that Sunday afternoon. And he held her hand, as her breathing became increasingly difficult and labored. And Carlton held her hand and he said, "Maggie, it's me, it's Carlton, I love you, it's going to be okay. I'll see you soon. I'll see you soon." And so, Carlton was there that day, I guess 3:30, 3:45, something like that, on Sunday afternoon when Maggie, breathed her last and passed away. And he was holding her hand just like he promised. Two or three days later, they had the visitation or the wake at the funeral home. And family and friends were all gathered there to give thanks and celebrate the life of Maggie. And her body lay there in the little casket, and she'd emaciated down to 70 or 80 pounds at that point. An extra body in the casket was a little box. And in that box was a tattered pink dress, the same dress that Maggie had worn 66 years before, on the day they'd stood there with Father Davis, and Carlton had taken hold of her hand and promised God that he would never let go. Lived well, marriage is a beautiful thing. It's a holy thing. It's a God thing. For this reason, a man shall leave his father and mother, and be joined to his wife. And the two shall become one. What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder.
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